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No. 1 in America

He was across the Atlantic when “the biggest moment” of his career happened. The 28-year-old Indian-origin Briton turned New Yorker, Jay Sean’s song Down had dethroned megaband Black Eyed Peas as the No. 1 single in America on October 7. Anirudh Bhattacharyya reports.

music Updated: Oct 24, 2009 00:07 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya

He was across the Atlantic when “the biggest moment” of his career happened. The 28-year-old Indian-origin Briton turned New Yorker, Jay Sean’s song Down had dethroned megaband Black Eyed Peas as the No. 1 single in America on October 7.

He was buzzed, tweeting exultantly: “Aaaaaaarrrggggh!!!! This is craziness!!!! Dreams can come true!!!”

In an interview, he said, “I was in England when I found out. It was nice to share it with my family and friends who I hadn’t seen in a while. My reaction was one of complete disbelief. Even though I knew there was a chance that Down could reach the No. 1 spot, it was incredible to actually see it there, the evidence.”

Born in Southall, raised in London’s Hounslow, Jay Sean had just created history by becoming the first ever solo artist of Indian origin to top the Billboard Hot 100. The single, Down, an R&B track with a pop sensibility, had been gaining traction, having moved steadily up the charts for 13 weeks before the breakthrough.

The Billboard Hot 100 lists the most popular songs in the US, as measured by radio play, sales and online streaming.

It isn’t as if Jay Sean, born Kamaljit Singh Jhooti, is a stranger to the charts, having had seven Top 10 hits in the UK where he released his first two albums, Me Against Myself and My Own Way. But a far larger market beckoned and he moved to New York. “I just wanted to take things further, take it to the next level,” he said of his decision to settle in the US.

He signed on with the hip-hop oriented US record company Cash Money. Down also features his labelmate, Lil Wayne, already a superstar in the US. Jay Sean said collaboration helped propel him to early mainstream success: “It was huge. I was an unknown in America. It meant everything to me.”

Jay Sean hasn’t forgotten his roots in England and is excited over the upcoming release of Down there on October 25. He believes his UK fans get that he hasn’t quit on them: “They understand that to break through in America, you need to stay here, spend a lot of time here. America’s such a huge country, it takes time to get around and promote yourself.”

He feels vindicated about dropping out of a course in medicine that he had pursued: “Oh God! No. 1 in America! Going around the world! How can you say no to that? I do believe in dreaming big and my parents are my biggest supporters.”

He’s also tuned into Bollywood, having appeared in the film, Kya Kool Hain Hum. He’s talked about working with Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. And has several actor friends in the industry. But the closest is actress Priyanka Chopra. He said Chopra might even appear in a future video of his.

His taste in music ranges from Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5 to Jagjit Singh.

His album, All Or Nothing, will release towards the end of November, but the release that will be anticipated is that of his next single, Do You Remember.

Jay Sean isn’t fazed by the expectations after his success. “Whatever happens now, it’s very difficult to top a Number One,” he said. “You have to keep that in mind and enjoy the journey.”